Friday, August 8, 2008

Marina Bay Sands Rises Out Of Sight To Stay On Track

Source : The Business Times, August 8, 2008

40% of project is underground; shopping mall rents average $50 psf

The lay of the land may still look relatively flat over the Marina Bay Sands site but the integrated resort will open on time.

That is because - away from the limelight - almost 40 per cent of the development is underground and progressing well. Marina Bay Sands says the sub-structure works for the convention centre are well established while superstructure works are well underway and rising above ground.

Sub-structure basement slabs for the casino and theatre are also 'progressing well'.

Earlier issues with the reclaimed land subsiding have been ironed out too. 'Marina Bay Sands has the expertise to deal with such conditions based on our experience in Macau, which is also on reclaimed land. In Singapore, we overcame the challenging conditions of reclaimed land through special considerations and complex below-ground work such as long-length diaphragm walls,' explained Marina Bay Sands general manager George Tanasijevich.

Of the three hotel towers, one has been built to the eighth storey with the other two already four storeys high.

Mr Tanasijevich added: 'Admittedly, it is a very aggressive target, but our target remains and we are confident we can hit it for a December 2009 opening.'

The three hotel towers will have around 2,500 rooms and will be run by Marina Bay Sands.

The shopping mall - which is substantial at around 800,000 square feet - will be leased out. So far, about 280,000 sq ft has been leased.

'We have spoken with over 1,000 brands. We have been talking to them for over two years and some have been interested even before we had a floor plan,' Mr Tanasijevich said.

Average rents for units leased are currently at about $50 per square foot per month and Mr Tanasijevich said: 'We do expect to have market-leading rents.'

While specific brands have not been named, Mr Tanasijevich said that it started by looking at luxury fashion, watch and jewellery brands. 'We are in the process of determining what will be the best mix,' he added.

Marina Bays Sands has employed about 300 people directly and its meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions (Mice) team is about nine-strong.

The Mice business is important to Marina Bay Sands. Mr Tanasijevich said: 'We are deep in discussion with about 30 expos, and organisers of about 40 meetings and conferences for the opening year up to 2016.'

Speaking at the Las Vegas Sands Q2 2008 financial results briefing last week, chairman Sheldon Adelson was also bullish on the Singapore retail market.

Saying that he found the rents that retailers were willing to pay 'extraordinary', he added: 'And they certainly indicate that they expect to do a high level of gross volume to justify these high minimum rents.'

'We expect that our mall in Singapore, the Marina Bay Sands, will be considered probably the most successful, the most profitable mall ever,' he added.

Mr Adelson was speaking from Macau, where the Venetian Macau will soon celebrate its first anniversary and also open the Four Seasons Macau together with its world premiere of Cirque du Soleil's Zaia.

The integrated resort (IR) model with gaming and non-gaming offerings is still relatively new in Asia but Las Vegas Sands reported that its Asian entertainer performances - including headliners Jay Chou, Hacken Lee, Easton Chan and Aaron Kwok - have been drawing visitors, with some acts seeing over 100,000 visitors a day.

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